Category Archives: Baroque era

Vespro della Beata Vergine

Vespro della Beata Vergine Bärenreiter

In 2013 Bärenreiter issued a new Urtext edition of Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine, one of the most beloved sacred works of the 17th century.

The volume originated in a graduate seminar at the University of North Texas under the direction of the Monteverdi specialist Hendrik Schulze, who served as the book’s editor.

The edition combines the latest in musicological research specifically with the needs of the performer in mind, making a modern interpretation of this 400-year-old work possible. This new research has led, for instance, to a divergent evaluation of the Lauda Jerusalem oriented towards performance practice, with numerous additional accidentals and a new interpretation of the melodic variants from the different part books.

Below, John Eliot Gardiner leads a full performance of the work. Go ahead, you deserve it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, New editions, Performance practice

Bach’s temperament

harpsichord tuning

It is unanimously accepted that the term wohltemperiert in the title of Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier refers to a tuning that makes it possible to compose and perform music without restriction in all twelve major and minor keys; however, there are still divergent opinions about the tuning that Bach preferred for his composition.

One view is that so-called equal temperament was assumed, in which the octave is divded into twelve equal half-tones (the tuning which came to be generally accepted over the course of the 19th century). Other scholars dispute this, but do not agree among themselves about how the nuances of the inequality in tuning are to be divided among the individual major and minor keys.

This according to Valuable nuances of tuning for part I of J.S. Bach’s “Das wohl temperirte Clavier” by Mark Lindley (Berlin: Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, 2011), which is an open-access multimedia resource for students and performers of Bach’s work.

Below, Gustav Leonhardt’s interpretation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Resources

Vivaldi and Venetian wind

Giorgione Tempesta_edited-1

The prevalent air regimes dominating Venice include the regional sirocco (scirocco) wind and the strong and gusty local bora (borea, a föhn wind, from the Latin ventus favonius). The bora blows in from either the north (the Alps) or from the west (the Balkans), raising temperatures and lowering humidity; it is typically accompanied by low clouds and reduced visibility.

Vivaldi’s instrumental compositions, especially those with programmatic implications, abound with musical illustrations of winds and their rhetorical satellites. Three out of his four solo violin concertos that make up Le quattro staggioni (1725) feature winds as protagonists controlling both the imagery and the attached sonnets and the music itself.

Vivaldi’s operatic librettos are especially abundant in such allegorical keywords and rhetorical interplay. Winds and breezes, along with other stereotypical concetti—symbolic representations of animals (lion, hind, snake), various birds (goldfinch, nightingale, swallow), and butterflies—abound in his operatic arias. Often the direct verbal use of “wind” is substituted with its rhetorical alternatives such as tempest (tempesta), thunder (tuono), storm (borasca), air vortices (vortici), flashes and lightings (lampi), high sea waves (onde), clouds (nouvole), and others. The fact that most of Vivaldi’s operatic librettos were provided or adapted by local writers suggests that the wind was a symbol common to the entire Venetian tradition.

This according to “Sirocco, borea, e tutti i venti: Wind allegory in Venetian music” by Bella Brover-Lubovsky, an essay included in Musik—Raum—Akkord—Bild: Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Dorothea Baumann (Bern: Peter Lang, 2012, pp. 149–162).

Above,  a detail from Giorgione’s La tempesta, a depiction of Venetian weather from the early 16th century. Below, Vivaldi’s celebrated depiction from Le quattro staggioni.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Science

Handel reference database

handel monument

Handel reference database is the largest collection of documents on the composer’s life, career, and early reception. This open-access online resource is the ongoing work of Ilias Chrissochoidis.

Currently at 800,000 words, it has fully absorbed Deutsch’s documentary biography on Handel up to the year 1726 and aspires to incorporate every available document on Handel through his Commemoration Festival of 1784.

Aside from providing free, direct, and permanent access to records on the Enlightenment’s most influential composer, it seeks to highlight the role of public benefit scholarship in today’s academia. HRD welcomes and fully acknowledges contributions from researchers working on the long 18th century (especially on Continental European music and theater) as well as collaborations that can accelerate its growth and improve its functionality.

Above, the monument to Handel at Westminster Abbey, where the composer’s remains are buried.

Related articles:

1 Comment

Filed under Baroque era, Resources

Marie-Louise Desmâtins in life and death

4069-2559

The novel La musique du diable, ou Le Mercure galant devalisé (Paris: Robert le Turc, 1711) describes  the arrival and subsequent activities of Marie-Louise Desmâtins and Lully in Hell; it also recounts events leading up to the soprano’s demise.

In the absence of any historical record of her last days, one might ask whether there could be a modicum of truth in the novel’s reports that Desmâtins had grown so obese that she engaged the finest butcher of the day to remove her fat; that she then mounted a lavish party for which all of the food had been prepared using this fat; at that she died soon thereafter from unknown causes. The reader is assured that she was welcomed to Hell with the highest honors, and that she is happier there than she ever was in her earthly life.

This according to “La musique du diable (1711): An obscure specimen of fantastic literature throws light on the elusive opera diva Marie-Louise Desmatins (fl. 1682–1708)” by Ilias Chrissochoidis (Society for Eighteenth-Century Music newsletter 11 [October 2007] pp. 7–9).

Above, a rather alarmingly corseted Desmâtins in a contemporaneous portrait; below, the final scene of Lully’s Armide, which Desmâtins starred in in 1703 (note that this is not an attempt to replicate the original staging).

Related articles:

1 Comment

Filed under Baroque era, Curiosities, Food, Humor, Literature, Opera

Händel and Johnson

handel-johnson

Samuel Johnson lived in London during a struggle between English and foreign composers—epitomized by the rivalry between Händel and Thomas Arne—and witnessed its climax, which was to have a devastating impact on English musical morale through the 19th century.

During Johnson’s first decade in London this rivalry was characterized by Händel concentrating on his own affairs and ignoring Arne, while Arne was highly conscious and jealous of Händel. Their fortunes fluctuated, the one prevailing in public taste and then the other, but the spectacular performance of Händel’s 1749 Music for the royal fireworks, HWV 351, and the triumphant revival of his Messiah the next year finally established him as London’s pre-eminent composer. When he retired from the music scene in 1759 neither Arne nor any other English composer managed to achieve comparable public acclaim.

The 1784 commemoration of Händel at Westminster Abbey featured some 275 singers and an orchestra of about 250. Johnson chose to go to Oxford that week, but Boswell, having accompanied Johnson there, returned to London after three days to attend the event. Although Johnson died that year, he had lived to see the victory of a composer whose work would prove as enduring as his own.

This according to “Music in Johnson’s London” by Bruce Simonds, an essay included in The age of Johnson: Essays presented to Chauncey Brewster Tinker (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949, pp. 411–420); the book is covered RILM retrospective abstracts of music literature.

Below, Händel’s 1749 work with appropriate visuals.

Related article: Operatic degeneracy

2 Comments

Filed under Baroque era, Literature

Investigación y patrimonio musical

Música policoral...

In 2013 Alpuerto and Centro de Investigación y Documentación Musical (CIDoM) launched the series Investigación y patrimonio musical with Música policoral de la catedral de Cuenca: Motetes al Señor y los Santos de Alonso Xuárez (1640–1696), edited by José Luis de la Fuente Charfolé.

The activities of the composer Alonso Xuárez (1640–96) were crucial for the development of the religious repertoire at the Catedral de Santa María y San Julián de Cuenca. Xuárez was responsible in great measure for the stabilization of the music chapel and its repertoire, bringing Cuenca on a par with neighboring cities in regard to the quality and breadth of its liturgical music.

The motets collected in this edition address general liturgical rituals and pay tribute to local saints and regional traditions. A list of singers and performers connected with the music chapel of Cuenca’s cathedral for the period 1661–74 is appended.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, New editions, New series

The beggar’s opera

beggar-s-opera-1729

Several aspects account for the success of  John Gay’s ballad opera The beggar’s opera when it premiered in London in 1728.

Gay’s skillful transformations of well-known songs contained many witty references to the originals, adding a rich subtext that his audience would have understood fully.

His audience would also have appreciated his caricatures of grand opera, which included references to recent London productions—particularly Händel’s Floridante (1721) and Alessandro (1726)—and to the highly public rivalry of the local operatic sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni (1696–1778) and Faustina Bordoni (1697–1781).

Gay’s facility as a writer was also a factor; he created clever, well-wrought lyrics and dialogue, vivid characters, and an irresistible ironic tone. An accomplished musician, Gay was certainly the musical arranger—not Pepusch, as some have argued.

This according to “The beggar’s opera” by Bertrand Harris Bronson, an essay included in Studies in the comic (Berkely: University of California Press, 1941, pp. 197–231); the book is covered in the recently launched RILM Retrospective Abstracts of Music Literature.

Above, William Hogarth’s 1729 painting of a scene from the work (click to enlarge); below, a gallant and dashing excerpt from Peter Brook’s 1953 film, courtesy of our friend Allan Janus.

Related articles:

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Opera

Rameau’s American dancers

Rameau by J.-J.Caffieri, 1760

The 1725 account in Mercure de France of two Native Americans dancing at a Paris theater provides a detailed link between the large corpus of earlier European descriptions of New World music and the composition of Rameau’s harpsichord piece Les sauvages.

The account and the composition constitute a significant episode in the prehistory of ethnomusicology. Rameau’s detailed characterization of the Indians’ performance in the piece develops initiatives by 17th-century French musicians, and his later operatic use of Les sauvages in Les Indes galantes mirrors the ambiguities of Europe’s response to the Americas in the 18th century.

This according to “Rameau’s American dancers” by Roger Savage (Early music XI/4 [October 1983] pp. 441–52).

Today is Rameau’s 330th birthday! Above, the 1760 bust of the composer by Jean-Jacques Caffieri (click to enlarge); below, a two-harpsichord version of Les sauvages.

Related article: Ballet and sauvagerie

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Curiosities

Pachelbel and immune response

pachelbel

In an experiment, 80 students were each randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: no treatment (control), music only, imagery only, and music and imagery combined.

The first group was asked to sit quietly for 17 minutes. The second group listened to a recording of Pachelbel’s D-major canon. The third treatment used directed imagery to help the subjects visualize the bone marrow, a primary source of lymphocyte production, and the radiation of cleansing lymphocytes to various areas of the body. The fourth treatment combined the music and the directed imagery.

The second, third, and fourth treatments resulted in significant increases in the subjects’ immune response. The fourth treatment, however, did not show a significant increase over those of the second and third.

This according to “The effects of music and biological imagery on immune response (S-IgA)” by Chung Tsao Chien, et al., an essay included in Applications of music in medicine (Washington, D.C.: National Association for Music Therapy, 1991, pp. 85–121.

Today is Pachelbel’s 360th birthday! Below, Rob Paravonian discusses other uses of the celebrated canon in D.

1 Comment

Filed under Baroque era, Curiosities, Science